Saturday, June 20, 2015

Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, SC

I was taking a photo of the moon over over church when I was there a few weeks ago. Just walking home around 10:30 at night after hearing Madeleine Peyroux at the College of Charleston Cistern (a beautiful outdoor starry night setting) Here, the church still had a lovely peace about it, just a simple white, classic African American church in the middle of Charleston. Always a city quiet at this time of night with the college kids (thankfully!) gone for the summer.

I'll write more, but just found this innocent photo moments ago. It is taken from the back of the church where the assassin parked. This is 1/2 block from our home - the site we pass when we walk toward Meeting or King Street or Marion Square for the Farmer's Market. The front of the church supports the beautiful steeple.

God bless you, Mother Emanuel.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Heart-break: Moment of being

My writing coach, Patricia Francisco, worked with me on the lovely, lovely concept of "moments of being." Virginia Woolf used the phrase in her work "Sketches from the Past" to describe those times / moments when we experience a deep knowing, understanding, insight or reality. She was, at the time, working with her own memories, especially from her childhood.

Little, big, in-the-middle sized memories of moments that are not forgotten because they become the architecture of a life. I appreciate how small the moments can be.

What I think is profound is to notice the moment as it happens - to be in the experience and to be observing the experience at the same time. Is that what forms memory? Do we have to be consciously observing to have it become memory? I don't know the answer to that.

I just know that this morning I had an experience that felt like that, and I wanted to write it down. Here it is:

I’m in my blue chambray pajamas. They are too big for me, but I like feeling smaller than I am because of that. They drag on the floor and the sleeves fall at my fingertips without rolling a cuff. I stand at the stove, stirring the spinach and onions in the black cast iron skillet. I’m making an omelet for Lee. He cleans out the Italian stovetop espresso pot, which is always a mess. He makes me cappuccino every morning. Today’s cup was perfect.
And now, from the area of my heart, I start to quake. A feeling begins to erupt, like a little bird nosing its way out of its shell, cracking softly. The spinach and onion blur as my eyes fill with tears.
“I feel so much emotion,” I say, naming the obvious.
Lee turns my way and smiles. “Here, making an omelet?” 
“I know I won’t be able to make you an omelet forever.  I know the day will come when we won’t do this together, here in the kitchen, quietly working side by side. Each of us just doing the simplest thing. For each other.”

He moves to put his arms around me and holds me there with my pajamas dragging on the tile floor. Then I go back to the stove and pour the eggs into the pan. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

SPOLETO: Art in the City

I've learned that a lot of people haven't heard of Spoleto; I'm sure I wouldn't have if I hadn't lived here in Charleston years ago. So I'll start with a tutorial right from Wikipedia...they say it well:

Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina, is one of America's major performing arts festivals. It was founded in 1977 by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti, who sought to establish a counterpart to the Festival dei Due Mondi (The Festival of Two Worlds) in Spoleto, Italy.
When Italian organizers planned an American festival, they searched for a city that would offer the charm of Spoleto, Italy, and also its wealth of theaters, churches, and other performance spaces. Charleston was selected as an ideal location, with Menotti saying of Charleston:
 It's intimate, so you can walk from one theatre to the next. It has Old World charm in architecture and gardens. Yet it's a community big enough to support the large number of visitors to the festival.[1]
     The annual 17-day late-spring event showcases both established and emerging artists
     in more than 150 performances of opera, dance, theater, classical music, and jazz.
So, there you go. That's what we are up to these days. SPOLETO!
Opening Day Event
It started last night and our first performance was Romeo and Juliet at the Dock Street Theater - a spectacular small theater built in oh who knows when, but considered the first theatre in America. It is sooooo beautiful and of the sweetest scale. And for me, it has the lingering memories of the days I actually acted upon that stage in a couple of plays here in Charleston and created the costumes for other plays. 
Lee and I agree that the play, performed by the Globe Theatre of London was a bit of a let down. The acting was fine. But I am such a fan of Romeo and Juliet, I just don't know how you can do this play without enough passion to almost burn the house down. But, it is exciting to see people actually choosing to be performers for a living. I love this. I appreciate this. And there were several especially fine performances! It just didn't sing as a whole.
But, all that said...they were really cute! And here they are performing in the streets earlier in the day.
Players from the Globe Theater of London 
Walking home at 11:00 at night, the moon lit the way and the stars sparkled. The big dipper hung over us in the navy night sky. The steeple of St. Phillips was a monument of limestone pointing to the stars. So the night, as a whole, was so charming. To get dressed and look at my husband in his Italian linen suit with the pocket square, his cropped beard, his Ray-Bans as we walked to the theater in the sunlight, then home, hand in hand after the play. This was all sweet. 
Today we went to a chamber music concert - again at the Dock Street Theater - the same LOVELY 15 minute walk from our home - and it was fantastic. The moment it began with eight musicians on stage, featuring oboe, violin and harpsicord, a thrill moved through me - through my heart - and I was so happy to be in that seat. The second piece was contemporary, experimental and probably will be forgotten next week, but the first and third pieces - Vivaldi and Dvorak were so very beautiful and to think that you are spending a Saturday afternoon with these musicians who are so enjoying their lives in this moment, so into it, so generous.
Performers from the Chamber Music Performance today

Walking out into the afternoon, 75, dry, blue sky and breezy, we walked the long way home to take in the view of the harbor. Then I settled into my chair on the porch (working on that word "piazza" but it just doesn't stick for me) and dozed off in the breeze off the Ashley River.

Next week: Emmy Lou Harris. Madeleine Peyroux and Westminster Choir!

Madleine Peyroux - next week!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Slow Living in Charleston

I've had this slow living thing on my mind lately. Well, I arrived in Charleston yesterday, catching up with Lee who had been here since Thursday to work on the the school. Arriving on a Saturday was brilliant, and I will take note. It meant I didn't feel one ounce of compunction to work! The most "work" I did was thoroughly enjoyable. Buy flowers for the apartment, throw a table cloth on the piazza dining table, fluff the cushions, fill the frig.

Today we started the day with Lee's most excellent cappuccino on the piazza. When I walked out this morning in my p.j.s to have coffee I almost cried. The morning was still and sweet and 72 degrees and I couldn't tell my outside from my inside except for the fragrance of jasmine that permeated the air floating around me. That, and the morning swallows out for their own breakfast.

By 9:00 we decided to drive to the beach for our walk. And in no time, only 20 minutes later, we were trekking on the boardwalk to the beach. We planted our beach chairs, then set out to walk 3 miles, enjoying the children up early and digging in the sand, the dogs, dogs, dogs playing catch with balls and prancing in the water, the pick-up softball games with kids and dads and a metal rod for a bat.

The rest of the day was so slow. I have not been able to say I've had a slow day in years. Decades? Today passed slowly. After walking on the beach, we came home and, except for walking to King Street for an errand, I spent the day on the porch (piazza!) in the big old wicker chair with feather cushions reading my book of essays, working on my book and talking to Lee.

I did take a shower. And walk to dinner. Then walk home. And discovered a flower I've never seen or remembered seeing. And am now waiting for Mad Men to 10:00 p.m. here on the East Coast! But who cares? What else is there to do?

Where I spent most of the day - in that wicker chair on the right.

Our beach chairs on Sullivan's Island.

Lee. Reading. Beach. Three of my favorite things.

This is real. I took this photo today. Can you smell it? A magnolia.
A Southern magnolia. Not the kind we have in Minnesota.


We saw this on our way home from dinner. What the heck beautiful flower is this???
Hint: It is a creeping flowering jasmine.

This is what it looks like tucked among its leaves and other flowers. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Back in Charleston - and building its first Waldorf School

Header final2.jpeg

Joined Lee in Charleston today. He came a couple days early to work on the Waldorf school we are going to create here....The Acorn School of Charleston.
Yep, going to happen.

And just in sync...the New York Times publishes this piece for the Sunday paper. This was the topic of Lee's presentation today at an information meeting. 

I feel so frustrated by our educational system in this country. We use our children as guinea pigs - let's try this, let's try that. And then, worst of all, we project our own fears onto our children. OMG....what if they aren't reading at 6! Are they damaged? Do they need special help? Are they on the "spectrum?"

So much pressure on kids. So much garbage. 

I feel so happy to be working on creating a Waldorf School with Lee here in Charleston. Waldorf's attitude is "the later the better" - not "the sooner the better."

Slow food? Why not Slow Childhood?

Oh, and in service of shameless self-promotion, here is the website for the school:

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Longest Hiatus Ever.....but back for Mother's Day. "Motherhood: The Default Setting"

Motherhood: The Default Setting
Written Spring 2007

My default setting is “Motherhood.” It is in the “locked” position and takes clever technical maneuvering to change the setting. Like, sending my almost independent children away for long periods of time to faraway places so that I don’t have to feed them or edit their English papers. Only then can I unlock the setting for a few days…survive on salads, soup, wine and work. Until they return – when I predictably head for the grocery store, ashamed of the depleted refrigerator, and rev up the nagging about the state of their bedroom and the cat box and hover over what is going into their mouths. “Don’t drink sodas. Please. I didn’t raise you to drink soda.” This kind of hovering sometimes even keeps me from working, which I do from home, in full view of too many of their activities. And, working is not optional.
I am 53 years old, working hard for a late-blooming career I love, but today I was involuntarily drawn back into the drama of motherhood: where will my 17-year old daughter go to college? Earlier this week, we returned from a two-day pilgrimage to Madison, Wisconsin in hopes of finding the Holy Grail of College Educations at the University of Wisconsin. It’s affordable. It’s highly ranked. Sounds promising and easy. I drove the 5 hours there and the 5 hours home listening to the Dixie Chicks singing about how they are still “mad as hell” and we both got sufficiently worked up over the heated lyrics, joining in on the chorus. Until, we couldn’t stand it any more. Then I turned on All Things Considered and she took a nap.
 We hiked around the campus of 40,000 students for 2.5 hours in wind and cold.  We drank more than our share of cappuccino, observing the packed house of slightly alternative college students doing whatever they do in coffee shops, the whole setting looking like an ad for Mac laptops. She bought a UW trucker’s hat and felt right at home in a hooded sweatshirt and jeans. Things at Madison are “chill,” according to her. I think I know what that means and I had to agree, although I would have used a different adjective. I was served wine at the local Mexican restaurant out of a massively over-sized wine glass. If this is what they mean when they say it is a drinking school, I am officially worried. This wine glass was larger than the water pitcher and we have photos to prove it.
I have wondered if the school is too big for her, that she will get “lost,” too much anonymity. So, we visited a class, the large lecture with over a hundred sleepy-looking students called “Communication and Human Behavior.” The professor asked a question – one of those things you might know even if you hadn’t read the material. No one responded and that annoyed her. She raised her hand, was called on and answered the question. Clearly, she’ll be fine at Madison. We thought it was settled.
Finally, I can get back to work.
            Then today, she heard from five more colleges. She applied to this vast number of colleges with the philosophy “Cast a wide net,” because she needed to increase her chances of a strong financial aid package. And she got in to all of them. We are mostly just stunned. And so, once again, I am derailed by demands for decisions, travel plans, discussions about preferences, financial aid, climate and fashion at each of the said schools.
I have work to do. I support my children and myself. I have magazine stories I should be pitching. I should be at the tile store, selecting tile for my client’s bathroom. I should be filing papers and balancing checking accounts and doing my job. I should be working. But I am so absorbed by the energy surrounding her right now – some of it flattering, much of it overwhelming – that I cannot concentrate and I see some modest need for keeping her focused on one step at a time, except that I am not very good at that myself. There are calls to make about campus visits, flights to book, budgets for all this to consider, bosses to email for time off (for her), and friends to tell. We walk around the lake together to talk it out. I should be returning emails.
            But how many more days will I have to walk the lake with Isabelle? She is 17, a senior, leaving home in a few months and never coming back in the same way. How many more times will she show me the prom dress she thinks is cute and what do I think, should she buy it on the Nordstrom website? How many times will we get silly taking photos of the mammoth wine glass at the rinky-dink Mexican restaurant? How many more times will she ask me if I think there is pork fat in the refried beans, meaning she cannot eat it, the vegetarian that she is and has been since she was five? I will miss her. For three years, I have missed my son, Zan, who went to D.C. for college, to Paris and back, and who, thankfully, still emails me his college papers for review on occasion, but is really gone for good, I can tell.

I am a mother first and foremost and I don’t know how to stop it. The setting is genetically and psychically in a locked position. This is costing me money, the money I need to buy the prom dress and pay for her college tuition bills that will begin to arrive soon. But, I wouldn’t miss this for anything.


Friday, November 14, 2014

The new chic

Well I must be writing for myself since I haven't written in two months. Do six posts a year a blog make??? On to the topic.

I just received the new book LouLou De La Falaise. I transports me in the most beautiful way to the 1970s, 1980s, to Paris and London, when people were chic in a way we almost never see today, to a time when no one had a cell phone attached to them. At some point, "chic" was derailed by "sexy." LouLou, for those of you who don't know because you are oh so much younger than me, was born to mid-level European royalty in London in 1947 to an English mother who was a Parisian model, and who became a Parisian model herself in the 1960s with a striking resemblance to Twiggy - then went on to become the muse to Yves St. Laurent in the 1970's and a spectacular jewelry designer.

LouLou was a star. She was a star to the world. She was a star to me, a young aspiring fashionista, merchandiser, designer. She was everything I could ever imagine being. Fun, happy, expressive, not so much caring what others think because what she was doing was so much more!

The book is full of beyond belief photos and here is my point....there was not a cell phone in the entire book.

After I finished paging through the whole book with Lee next to me, attempting to explain the magic, I went online to Sartorialist, which I do every day or two, to see where Scott Schumann is hanging out. Of course he's been around the world - in Dubai, in Milan, in Paris. But sadly, MOST of his photos are of people with a cell phone. Not all! But most. It's like a pacifier, I have decided. People with a cell phone don't have to deal with reality, with other people. We can totally fake that we are busy with our phones or on a phone call to get out of interacting with another human being.

You couldn't do that in the really very fun 1970's and almost just as fun 1980s. Nope. No hidin out. Just you and the world. No pacifier.'s my idea. What if we said, fine, use your phone during the day for work. But, man, in public, at a restaurant, out with friends, at a dinner party...ditch it. Just don't even bring it. What are we missing? A message? I'm changing my cell phone message to say the following:

Hi, this is Alecia and this is my cell phone which I never answer when in a meeting or out with a friend or driving, which seems to be alot of my life. So use it like an old fashioned phone. Leave a message, then I'll call you back when I get a chance. The fastest way to reach me is by email. Happy day.

Then, I'm going to get busy on chic. Since sexy is out of the question. Here are some images of LouLou.